When you're trying to prove you should be on an opening day roster, you probably don't want to walk into the ballpark in the morning and see Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy in the opposing lineup. But for Scott Kazmir on Sunday, the Dodgers proved to be exactly what he needed.
The 37-year-old lefty is attempting to show that he has what it takes to pitch in the big leagues for the first time in five years, and he was happy to face a stiff test in his first start of the spring. It was a good barometer a month into his time with the Giants.
"Facing those types of guys, that type of caliber of player, it speeds up the learning curve," Kazmir said. "Just getting out there and facing these hitters, you get a lot of feedback on how your stuff plays."
Kazmir gave up two runs in his three innings, but manager Gabe Kapler was happy with the way he looked. Kazmir struck out four, allowed two hits and walked one. Kapler felt he was cruising and could have gone into the fourth inning, but they wanted Kazmir to end on a clean inning. He struck out Betts on an inside fastball to start the third, then got Seager to ground out softly to first and A.J. Pollock to pop up to second.
"I thought he came out and attacked," Kapler said. "I thought he was aggressive and his fastball had life to it. There was evidence of that, some early swings and misses from Dodgers hitters. I thought he stayed poised and maintained his stuff throughout the outing."
Kazmir had made two previous appearances out of the bullpen, allowing two runs in two innings but also striking out four. He said it felt great to be back on a starting pitcher's routine, but his quickest path to the roster might be in relief. Even without Alex Wood, the Giants have five-set starters. Kazmir has made just one big-league appearance out of the bullpen in 12 seasons, but said he's working on solidifying a routine there.
"I need to be able to differentiate the warmup routine and be a little quicker," he said.
If he makes it back, he'll need to be a little quicker somewhere else, too. Kazmir last played in the big leagues with the 2016 Dodgers and knows their roster well. When Seager, who homered in the first, hit a grounder to first in the third inning, Kazmir was late getting off the mound. Tommy La Stella rushed to the bag to get the out as Seager gave his old teammate a little grief.
"He's screaming at me, 'You don't want to race me?'" Kazmir said, smiling. "Thank god Tommy made that play."